5 Myths of Back Pain
Pop quiz, what do you think is the leading cause of disability worldwide? If you thought low back pain, bingo! In the United States, we spend over $50 billion annually on just back pain. Ouch.
Since it is so ubiquitous and many are touched by pains in the back, there are some common misconceptions floating around. Lets lift the veil of back pain and show you some real options for superior therapy.
Myth #1: The spine is built like a column.
Most of us are taught that the vertebrae, that is the spine, are designed to sit one on top of the other. Think of it like a tower held in place by muscles and connective tissues. Makes sense, right? We live in a gravity driven world where mass is pulled in towards the earth. Here’s the but, if this were true we would never function in an anti-gravitational environment. Imagine the astronauts we see on video, spinning around and floating through the shuttle. Our spines can perform intricate maneuvers, especially when healthy.
Photo Credit: Paul Chek,www.ptonthenet.com
When we understand how our bodies actually operate we can optimize our functionality, restore proper biomechanics, and feel great all day! The biotensegrity model is a structural explanation to the way our anatomy works, from the cellular and DNA levels to the whole body frame. In a nutshell, it is a mixture of continuous tension and discontinuous compression. Imagine a mast on a ship whereby the compressive forces created by the support lines (tendons, ligaments) are adaptively variable based on the movement of the whole ship (body), and the mast (vertebral column) provides continuous expansive pressure. It is the dynamic dance of these compressive forces and expansive forces that keep our structure sound. Once we get that our structure is truly integrated, we can formulate more advantageous treatment protocols.
Myth #2: Bodywork is all you need for an achy back.
A back rub sounds nice! Still, most causes of back pain are NOT from serious conditions such as infection, cancer, fracture, or arthritis. Folks feel that a soothing therapeutic massage is the only remedy needed. Agreed, muscle tension or hypertonicity aggravates pain symptoms. Truth is, a massage is great if you can receive one regularly and consistently. Though bodywork alone addresses mostly the symptoms, what we call in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the branch. The best treatments get to the root of the issue!
TCM has its own system of medical bodywork called Tui Na. Based on the same meridian and channel science of acupuncture, Tui Na specifically addresses musculoskeletal disorders and internal medicine conditions alike. Remember the power of Cupping Therapy? To get a refresher, read our article on cupping. I haven’t even mentioned Gua Sha, yet another form of medical bodywork unique to TCM. Tui Na, Cupping, Gua Sha are individual medical modalities available from a TCM practitioner. Here’s the deal though, each bodywork system is like a component to a meal. You get better nutrition with a balanced meal. TCM offers you that balanced meal for optimal health!
Myth #3: Cold therapy helps with inflammation.
If it’s hot, cool it off. The logic seems rational, and inflammation is characterized by a sensation of heat. Many people will turn to ice to take care of this presentation. Well, in our article on the myths surrounding neck pain, we discussed how cold affects the body from a TCM perspective. Quick recap, “Ice is for dead people!” Dr. Mirkin who coined the famous R.I.C.E. acronym (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) has publicly recanted his statement that ice (read: cold) is beneficial for acute or chronic injuries and tissue damage. We have world leaders that could take a lesson in how to officially rectify position statements in light of better information.
Cold as viewed through the scientific lens of TCM, literally congeals and congests. Have you ever baked? The recipe at certain periods may call for chilling the batter. Literally, cold will solidify a liquid to create a temporary structure. In your body, this is an obstruction. We all know obstructing blood vessels is something we desire to avoid. I know that cold helps to decrease pain symptoms, temporarily, but if it could lead to worsening of the issue let’s choose a better option. TCM provides a multitude of these options. For one, we have specific topical herbs that create a cooling sensation to alleviate the heat symptoms without adding the cold element to the body. Read above and below for more ways TCM helps!
Myth #4: Focus on the muscles of the spine to fix back issues.
This follows along with another myth, the site is the source. “If I have back pain, maybe by stretching and strengthening my back muscles, the pain will go away.” A common thought to have, and you could be absolutely right. Still, a professional trained to identify the root cause of a pathology is needed.
If the muscles of the abdomen (read: front body) are weakened and under activated, the muscles of the back body will compensate and try to perform functions that the front body musculature ought to be doing. Obviously, the back muscles were designed to perform certain functions different from those of the abdominal muscles. Since, the body is a biotensegrity figure they can take the load, literally, of underperforming muscles. In a way, your back pain could be based on poor posture, hypotonicity (weakness and laxity) of the abdominal muscles, or hypertonicity (tightness and shortening) of the abdominal muscles. Essentially, get a practitioner educated to spot and repair the cause of dis-ease on your wellness team.
Myth #5: Acupuncture is an ineffective treatment option for back pain.
You cannot hear me, but I’m laughing aloud at this one. Once ideas are implanted into the societal psyche they are difficult to undo. Like Dr. Mirkin’s R.I.C.E. and ice retraction. We all heard “R.I.C.E. your injuries” growing up so much, that even when Dr. Mirkin retracted and refined his statement based on the best available research and the support of the scientific community, the majority of people will still say, “R.I.C.E. it!” Same with acupuncture, many people are still uncertain of its efficacy from misinformation provided by conventional medicine years or decades ago. Think of weeding a garden, once a seed is planted then germinates and roots sink deep, it’s difficult to pull it up. It fights back in a way.
The truth is that acupuncture has been demonstrated to be of amazing benefit for those suffering from back pain from myriad disease processes. Whether the back pain is from trauma, injury, infection, muscle imbalance, or arthritis, acupuncture works. The World Health Organization published a report based on the top research and scientific evidence. Guess what was on their Top 28 list, yup, BACK PAIN! This was way back in 2003 and they have not retracted their statement.
Back pain is a leading cause of missed work, medical bills, and simply a feeling of not being well. At some point, we all feel it! Whether it’s acute and temporary or chronic and longstanding, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture can help you. The practitioners at Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness are educated and experienced in treating this and so much more. Contact our office today to schedule a wellness session and get on the path to total health!
- American Chiropractic Association. “Back Pain Facts and Statistics.”
- Chek, Paul. “Back Strong and Beltless: Part 1.”
- Evidence Based Acupuncture. “WHO Official Position.”
- Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness. “Why is Cupping Therapy becoming so popular?”
- Levin, Stephen. Biotensegrity. “The Tensegrity-Truss as a Model for Spine Mechanics: Biotensegrity.”